Thursday, September 20, 2012
Bishops: Warriors or Diplomats
I can't help comparing and contrasting our hierarchy with the Scots.
Cardinal O'Brien has broken off direct communication with the First Minister and Government, "because they are not listening". Our hierarchy seem to think access to the halls of of power is still important, though many might suggest "access without influence" is pretty meaningless.
There is a sense in which bishops can be divided into warriors and diplomats, theirs are warriors, ours are diplomats.
Warriors tend to rally the troops, are clear in their sloganising, and risk everything on on the battlefied and can end up slaughtered by the enemy. Diplomats avoid direct confrontation, delight in obfuscation and subtlety and work calmly behind the scenes in an atmosphere of give and take, normally they reach a working, if compromised, relationship with their opponents.
It was often suggested Catholics before VII lived in a "ghetto", with our own education system, our own teacher training colleges, our own doctors, even our own hospitals, pharmacies, undertakers. Those who worked "outside" like doctors, police, nurses had their own professional organisations or guilds, that gave them solidarity and protected their interests. There were deeply Catholic, and yet serious and respected journals, like the Tablet, profoundly Catholic aid organisations like Cafod. There were Catholic banks and building societies, even Catholic dating or marriage agencies. We had the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council to help those whose marriages were in difficulty, which has now dropped its Catholicism and has become Marriage Care Ltd, until recently we had Catholic adoption agencies and child care social services. We even had our own young offenders institutions.
We live in the world, we are going to be compromised by it, even in the "ghetto". The loss of Catholic identity can be blamed on many things, the financial cost of a separate structure is certainly one factor, perhaps more importantly are the developments following Gaudium et Spes, and the choice of Bishops. A friend suggests Bishops being nominated by the Secretariate of State has marked a movement to diplomats where as previously the Holy Office or CDF had chosen bishops who were also warriors. One can hardly imagine Secretaries of State for Education being afraid of meeting a Catholic bishop today, as Butler was on being given an audience by Archbishop Amigo in the 1940s.
The big problem is that so much that we do depends on government funding; being "open to the world" inevitably means not only stepping into the world ourselves but also accepting the world comes into the Church. It does mean that we cannot discriminate against a teacher who wishes to celebrate their second or gay marriage or sex change operation within their school, just as it means at times having a pro-abortion school nurse. It does mean Cafod working alongside the condom supplying UK Government. It does mean that despite having Archbishop Nichols as Patron of Marriage Care Ltd it counsels gay partners and compromises its Catholicism, in the same way the Cabrini Society, complying with law is "open" to gay adoption. This is all about diplomacy. Formerly radical Catholic charities have become milder but hugely important national and international organisations, dealing in millions, running them, or even directing them. is beyond the capabilities of well-meaning amateurs, like our bishops. They simply haven't the time or expertise.
Warriors might, ultimately decide that it is impossible to co-operate with evil in any way, this seems where the US bishops are going, they are likely to raise the banner of the cross and draw the claymoor. It could mean that they break the law, eventually becoming outlaws! It will mean that governments withdraw funding in an attempt to curb rebellion, impose tighter laws to control them, try to sequester funds, do their best to crush disobedience. Eventually it might mean that the Scottish warrior-bishops end up by separating themselves from the State. It could mean breaking the law. It could mean closing or having their schools closed or nationalised. Withdrawing from anything that will compromise the purity of the Faith. It could mean bishops going to prison, it could mean Catholics refusing to pay tax, it could mean civil disobedience.
I cannot help wondering if this is the "smaller, humbler, purer Church" of which Pope Benedict speaks.
I think this is not unrelated but I am intrigued by the new Prefect of the CDF, this fusion of Liberation Theology (without the Marxism) and Ratzingarianism. German radical orthodoxy, with deep sense of social justice with an understanding of the Glory of the Truth.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake